Life, Death and Politics. A run-down of the abortion debate.

Essay by Len IvankovitserCollege, UndergraduateA+, January 1993

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A run-down of the abortion debate.

Few issues have fostered such controversy as has the topic of abortion. The participants in the abortion debate not only have firmly-fixed beliefs, but each group has a self-designated appellation that clearly reflects what they believe to be the essential issues. On one side, the pro-choice supporters see individual choice as central to the debate: If a woman cannot choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, a condition which affects her body and possibly her entire life, then she has lost one of her most basic human rights. These proponents of abortion believe that while a fetus is a potential life, its life cannot be placed on the same level with that of a woman. On the other side, the pro-life opponents of abortion argue that the fetus is human and therefore given the same human rights as the mother. Stated simply, they believe that when a society legalizes abortion, it is sanctioning murder.

In today's more industrialized societies, technology has simplified the abortion procedure to a few basic and safe methods. Technology, however, has also enhanced society's knowledge of the fetus. Ultrasound, fetal therapy, and amniocentesis graphically reveal complex life before birth, and it is this potential human life that is at the heart of the debate.

In order to form an opinion on this matter, we must first question and define several common factors which are numerously debated.

I. When does human life begin?

Scientists identify the first moment of human life as that instant when a sperm cell unites with an ovum or egg cell. The billions of cells that collectively make up a human being are body cells. Unless manipulated, these body cells are and remain what they appear to be: skin, hair, bone, muscle, and so...